“The longest month I have known.”

With these words Albert sums up his RAF career to date; I sympathise with my uncle – days of pointless marching and chilly evenings in shared accommodation, far from the home and the countryside that he loved. He did not have to sign up, and I admire him all the more for that. My Mother told me, that as a chemist in the oil industry he was in a ‘reserved occupation’ and would have therefore avoided conscription. But willingly he volunteered, committed himself to war as so many young men, and women, did. Did Albert ever contemplate his own death? On the 19th November 1941, I think not. His concerns were for his mother’s well being, and for those others that he loved. Not that he loved everyone mentioned, Albert’s opinion of ‘Mrs Churchill’ is less than favourable and why he recommended that ‘Aunt’ be barred from Bullar Road remains a mystery!

Wednesday, November 19th
Dear All,
Yesterday I received the parcel, which you posted on Monday, which was quite quick. I do not know which letter you were expecting from me, but the last thing I posted to you last week was a parcel containing socks and vest which went about Thursday. Yesterday or was it Monday I sent a package to you and a parcel containing meat paste, chocolate and sweets to Jean.
Thursday: incidentally I see that your letter was posted on November 17, one month after I joined the RAF and the longest month I have known, how much longer ago it seems that I was last home!
I do not think that I have a great deal of news to tell. My most interesting days are spent in the weekends, though this weekend we have a Church Parade, so once more I shall not apply for a pass, though if it is fine I shall escape into the country for a few hours. Monday and yesterday I attended the usual music meetings on Monday Myers Fogging, who played at the Tuesday’s concert, gave us some piano music – all from memory and very good. There was also a soprano and a gramophone symphony, making a mixed and interesting programme. On Wednesday one of the corporals gave us a most interesting lecture, illustrated with records, of the history of music – very sketchily of course, but he gave us a jolly good talk and played some excellent records including some that I should like very much indeed.
It is now evening and this letter will not be posted until Friday, so I hope you will get it on Saturday. Since I have nothing much to tell of my own doings I will answer your letter on the next page.


I was glad there is some news of Phil at long last, even if it was only a cable. Since I have been up here I have written him a letter and Airgraph and put a Xmas card in the letter, which I hope he has received. I am intending to write to Joyce somewhen and I will ask her what records she took away – just as a point of interest, I don’t mind of course. I can well imagine that you see plenty of Mrs Churchill too: I don’t suppose you have much time to think about your worries when she is in… I hope she will not be in too much when I come home, or else I shall be going back to Blackpool! However I expect she makes a good third for Kan-u-go, and company in the evenings. Do you see anything of Mr and Mrs Whatmore these days? You must keep “Aunt” out at all costs though, she is one of the visitors you must avoid.
It gets very dark these evenings, in spite of the street lights, and I’m glad to have my torch with me. This evening I saw the new moon for the first time, so we shall have some moonlight next week. We are on a new timetable next week, I understand, I suppose that will mean more work and time spent in marching around Blackpool. However, I do not mind marching now that my feet are better, or almost so, but the drill is still the item I dislike most of all. I am sure that I shall be able to walk much further now, which will be a good thing as I have no bicycle.
I have just been eating one of the apples and have two still remaining, so you see I did not really need any more. I also have some of the biscuits, which are very nice ones and a good shape as well, in fact I thought at first that they were shop ones before I undid the cellophane. As regards chocolates and sweets, I have not wanted to spend much money this week but I think I can get sweets at most times even if chocolates are rather scarce.

Murgatroyd and Winterbottom

I do not hear the wireless much here and I have missed all the things you mentioned. I should especially like to hear the talks on Mozart G minor symphony. I heard the music hall on Sunday though and thought it quite good with Suzette Tarri and Murgatroyd and Winterbottom who I have not heard for years. The “wireless” here is strictly speaking not wireless, as it is one of those re-diffusion things which seem very popular here.

“Another thing we see a lot of the swing doors, due no doubt, to the cold winds. I have never before seen so many swing doors as along the Blackpool Front.”

Don’t expect me to get Christmas leave! I saw in the “Telegraph” the other day that there would be none, and of course that would be especially true for trainees. However I think that our long weekend should be within a fortnight of Christmas so you will be able to save up some of the festivities for me. Anyway, I think you will be safe to go to Havant and I think it would be a good idea to go there if you can.
As regards photographs, I meant a small one (P.C.) f the cathedral . If you cannot find it you could send the other large one, the horizontal one, not showing the Bishop’s Palace. The one from the cliffs which I mean is the one on cream base grained paper – what I believe you call bromide paper, though in fact they are all on bromide paper, except the small contact prints. I do not know if that one has a train or not, but it does have a smudgy white seagull over the sea. I do not think the ones of Saints (Kings?), Fingal bridge or the stream are good enough to send, though you can send them if you care to.
I am not sure which ones of Jean I have, but I think we should keep the better one, which is I fancy, on the cream grained paper. That is about all this week, not even enough to fill this page, so goodbye and love from Albert. (P.T.O.)
P.S. We are just having some cocoa and a sort of fig cake for supper – we also have fig puddings for desert, and I don’t like it much – all pips and not a very nice flavour, but I don’t mind it much and everything else is very good.

Once again the feeling that Albert and I participate in a delicate dance, in which time is irrelevant; he mentions his wish for a photo of Jean and I found that photograph of my Mother to share in my last post. Foolish of me to think I found it for him? Perhaps. I’m sure though that he would have been glad (if not astonished) that I am able to share his work with you, wherever in the big, wide world you may be.

Sunday morning, Monday evening.

“Now I had better tell you some more about the billet and how good it is. We have plenty of everything.”

Albert started this letter on 9 November 1941. In spite of sore feet he appears in a positive frame of mind. His happiness was fuelled, I am sure, by the company of women (who obligingly make cocoa and iron hankies) and a plentiful supply of food. Other news relates to cinema trips, concerts, socks and day trips. Aside from his sore toe and the mention of pilot and observer exams, it would appear that the war is doing little to cloud his outlook.

As yet I have not received a message from you to this address but doubtless there will be something tomorrow, and if today I give an account of my doings, I shall be able to reply to you in a short time. It seems that the post is so slow that we cannot reply to letters twice a week I shall have to write my second one before I receive a reply to my first and so on, if you see what I mean I think it would be a good idea if I posted my letters Monday and Thursday so that you would receive them in the middle and at the end of the week. Then I think you could write on the same days, replying to my Monday letter in your Thursday one and to my Thurs. one in the weekend. I shall not now need to send home washing since we can send the stuff from this billet to a private laundry at about 1.6 a time which is no more than the post would cost. That reminds me, it goes on Sunday so I had better get it ready – oh it’s alright the landlady has collected it from my bedroom when she made the bed.
I said I was going out today but that is not the case I failed to get a pass at my first attempt and since: (a) I have got a sore toe and could not walk far with comfort and (b) I have already spent most of this weeks money, I did not bother to try a second time.
I have also discovered much to my dismay that the journey to Sheffield takes about five hours so it does not look as if I shall see much of that part of the world. Perhaps you could let me have the Bolton address if you think it would be alright to go. Or did you say that uncle Alan is at Manchester I could get there quite easily.
On Tuesday I got my feet seen to and was excused drill and marches for three days -which I didn’t much mind! They put Acriflavine and plaster on since the little toe on my right foot has blistered. I have brought some Acriflavine cream and put it on, it should be alright by Monday.
Now I had better tell you some more about the billet and how good it is. We have plenty of everything. Breakfast this morning was cornflakes, fried egg and bread and marmalade or jam. Yesterday dinner was chips, steak and beans and a custard trifle. For tea there is always something such as cold meat Friday there was fish and chips. At night the girls make us cocoa and there is something such as a pie or sandwiches to eat. It is really quite nice having the girls in as they are pleasant company and also do things for us such as washing up supper things and will iron handkerchiefs and ties for us. There is always a fire too, so that it is quite pleasant to stop indoors. Another good thing is that we help ourselves to sugar and milk (they they were in the teapot before) and have linen tablecloths instead of bits of American cloth, all of which make it more like home. There is warm or hot water in the morning too.
It is really quite nice having the girls in as they are pleasant company and also do things for us

“It is really quite nice having the girls in as they are pleasant company and also do things for us..”


I have been eating, and enjoying, lots of things that I did not touch at home. Most breakfast times there is cornflakes or “shredded wheat” and I have had that with milk and sugar, and quite likely may have it in summer time when I come home! I also have custard with things and rice pudding, and I eat, though do not like so much, greens and other vegetables, though we have not had much in the way of parsnips, swedes and turnips.
Today is grey and windy and I do not suppose I should go far this afternoon. As I said, I have not too much money. We were paid £1 on Saturday, to last us a fortnight and I have spent nearly 10/- of it on writing paper, acriflavine and a ticket for “Blossom Time”, going to the Halle Orchestra concert, and other odd things such as stamps and “The Listener”. This week I want to go to the cinema to see the Warner Brothers new film, perhaps I should go with Bob, my Hamble friend. The trouble is that it costs 2/- or 2/6 to get a reserved seat at the theatre, and I do not intend to go into the gallery though, at the Grand one can get a good seat for 2/- by waiting in a queue. However I shall manage on my RAF pay, even if I cannot save much of it. Which reminds me to ask how much of Jean’s money is left. I should think she has enough left for two or three weeks. How much is there in my box, and how are the savings certificates going, or probably SM&BP have not sent anything yet 
[Shell Mex & British Petroleum]. It is difficult for me to realise that I have been away only 3 weeks.
Yesterday I collected a parcel which arrived at Hull Road. It contained a pair of socks from Branstone, and I am wearing them now. This afternoon I ought to wash them and a lot of hankies, as I have had a bit of a cold. There was also a letter from Ron, which I was pleased to see, I must reply next week. I must do something this week about being an observer. As a matter of fact, there are several who would like to be pilots ( the pilot’s course is initially the same as the observers) and as a matter of routine the whole squad is undergoing an educational test to see if any are fit to go in for the course. I saw a pilots revision course maths paper and did practically everything in my head so it all seems pretty simple. On Friday we had a Morse test which I failed, but since I did not know any before Monday that doesn’t worry me much. We have two more chances on successive Fridays; I expect I shall be alright by the next test.
Monday 5pm.
I have just come in and have been reading your letters; it is very nice to have such a lot to read, and to know all about what happens at home, especially all the little things, like Tibby catching a mouse, and how you have arranged the kitchen for cold weather. I expect we have had some frosts but there being no grass or greenstuff, one doesn’t notice it so much. To-day it is wet and rather miserable and I am glad to sit by the fire. I must get this done in time for the post though and get that extra vest in. Auntie Daisy has some more socks underway I believe, so I shall soon be very well off. When I have got these dried I shall send a pair and save myself some mending! Thank you for the cheese and apples too. If I ever get a day out I can take the cheese with some bread thank you also for the information about Christmas presents, but you have missed out 2 very important ones.
I should like to share in your cheese savoury for dinner, that is something I should not get in any billet. Of course we have plenty of meat allowed us and most people would prefer meat to a “fussy” and dish like macaroni cheese (I wouldn’t of course). By the way we are allowed to wear shoes and so I have no worries on that score, and in lieu of slippers we use our gym shoes (plimsolls) which do just as well and don’t come off. I should not bother to send the “M.M.”, I have plenty to read and it would only get bent and battered. Perhaps you could send to uncle Jim a PC size photo of Exeter Cathedral, and there is one of the railway and cliffs done on cream grained paper that he could have. There are some of the guides to but they are not sufficiently in focus to be of much use, still send them along to him. I also meant to send Peter Wadham a 2 inch screwed rod and 2 doz. nuts & bolts for his Meccano, but that had better wait until Peter is home again. By the way 39 D. Road is opposite a little alley way and south of Banks street. Our “drill ground” is the top (blind end) of Cocker Street, not far away.
The envelope I meant was a blank stamped one which you sent. It got rather bent and slightly split in the journey. Don’t let the gramophone run down after use, though of course it is inadvisable to leave it fully wound. If you have not yet done so the needle had better be changed, use one of the “Chromium” ones (silver case) they are easier to put in. It is now nearly 6.30 & there is no time to make up the parcel. I will send it next time I write (Weds). So goodbye now and love to all, from Albert.

It is a strange, but not unpleasant sensation, to feel glad that Albert is enjoying himself. The heart tunes into the truth that lingers; he may be long gone but his words reconnect me with the time when he was young, hopeful, and delighting in Northern adventures. I have never visited Blackpool (shall I ever?) but I’ve found a good guide, albeit for the town as it was nearly 80 years ago! Well Albert, I look forward to your next letter.

10 Girls, and Real Birds

“Our beds are made, we have cocoa & a sandwich for a supper & there is hot water all times.”

32 Dickson Road as it appears today. A very different place to Whiteley Bank (see below).

Two days later, on 4th November 1941, Albert writes another letter home from his new billet. He is sounding really rather chipper, his excitement about his new lodgings leaps off the page. He finds himself in a hotel where there are more ‘girls’ than airmen, a dream come true for a 20 year old man far from home, I am sure.

He has a sense of purpose too, for his specific training has commenced and he is learning Morse code. He writes that his efforts can be seen on the paper. I searched and searched and saw no dashes and dots, until I tilted the first page and saw the impressions of code besides the address. I cannot reproduce it here and if there is a secret message contained therein, well I’m afraid I shall not be investing in fingerprint dust to decipher it!

Later in the letter he relates his visit to Stanley park where he saw ‘Real live birds!’ and enjoys the softness of the grass beneath his feet. He wishes he had walked from Whiteley Bank back to Branstone with his family, back to Headley House where there have been worries about money. How dear he was, to offer a contribution from his wages to help his Grandparents and the Maiden Aunts.

I very much enjoyed this letter, Albert came alive as I read his news. I hope you enjoy it too.

Dear All, you will note the change of address! Apparently our old billet was too far from the parade ground (about 12 mins), so we have been moved here, which is about 10 minutes nearer. We got back to billets at about 6p.m. and were informed that we should move after tea! It is now nine o’clock!

Fortunately this billet is, I believe, even better than the last. For example, our beds are made, we have cocoa & a sandwich for a supper & there is hot water all times, none of which we had at Hull road. Two of use from Hull road came here, and joined five other airmen who have been in Blackpool about 8 weeks I understand. There are also 10 girl Civil Servants, who are working at the Ministry of Works and Buildings, which has moved up to the Hotel Metropole here. There are other Ministries here, including Pensions and Health. They have naturally got the biggest & best hotels in the place.

We have begun to work in earnest this week. We work from 8 or earlier, to 6 with about an hour for dinner. There is the usual drill, and now we do Morse. Yesterday I had my first acquaintance with the Morse code and instead of going to the Music Club I learnt, or partly learnt the code – you will see that on the top of the page over. This evening I missed Handel’s Oratorio Judas Maccabeus by moving here. To-morrow I mean to make the greatest efforts to get to the music meeting. And on Thursday I must see my Hamble pal again – he was out when I called last week.

I received your letters this afternoon. I was sorry to hear that you had so tiresome a journey, though I would be pleased to walk from Whiteley Bank with you! I am very pleased to hear that the bother over the money has been settled, but perhaps you would like to take say 5/- per week out of my S.M. & B.P [Shell Mex and British Petroleum, Albert’s employer]. Or I could make an allotment of 7/- a week to you or them, and you could have as much as you require. Don’t be afraid to take the money if you want it. I am glad that their wireless is alright, and that Peter is better now. I suppose Jean is still in the same billet; I shall try to send her some chocolate or sweets and perhaps some meat paste.I believe there is a laundry service that we can avail ourselves of.

On Sunday I went to Stanley Park which you will find on the map with a pond in the east part of it. I believe it is the only park in Blackpool, but it is quite a nice place and I was joyful to have some grass under my feet, & trees on either side, and even some birds – real live birds! I walked to the eastern gates and out to a field nearby, where I actually saw some cows.

If I can manage a day pass to get outside the 5 mile limit, I should like to go to Garston on Sunday. Garston (I hope that is the name) [No Albert, you meant Garstang] is a village under the Pennines and I can do a little walk from there.

The fellows here say that it is not always the case that leave passes come when they should so whilst we can live in hopes, it is not advisable to hope too much! I have tried some shops for 1/4″ map of the district. There was a 1/2″ available but it did not show Castleton or the Lake District. I shall keep trying though. Boots have a very good shop and quite a nice selection of books. The apples have all gone – I was wrong when I said they were not so good – I had only had two of the little ones when I wrote – the large ones were much better & I shall always be pleased to see some more. That had better be all so goodnight & love from Albert.

P.S. I should not send any more envelopes you can see what happens to them!

What did happen to the envelopes I wonder? This letter, like many others, did not have an envelope. Albert’s letters were most likely censored. I know for a fact that some later ones were, as I’ve found little windows on pages, signifying the removal of a potentially treacherous word or two. Goodnight Albert, enjoy your cocoa and the sound of the “girls'” laughter.

Whiteley Bank, looking towards Canteen Road, which my Grandparents would have taken to Branstone.

“Players or Better”

I find Blackpool a real city of temptation..

My Grandmother’s (or my Grandfather’s ?) writing tells us that Albert has moved yet again, this time to Dickson Road.

Dear reader, forgive me for not writing for so long. Albert’s letter has been lying around my house (on the bedside table, by the computer, on the sofa) for too many weeks. Perhaps the letter has enjoyed its travels around my house, reminiscent of the times it spent on the dining room table at Bullar Road. Perhaps Grandmother or Grandfather kept the letter in a pocket for a while, in order to read it again, refolding the five pages carefully along the creases that remain in place today.

Albert’s opinion of Blackpool has changed somewhat, due to the variety of evening entertainment on offer. Although he struggles to find a quiet place to read (I love his observation “of course the churches are no use at night”), he has thrown himself into his new life with gusto. One would hardly think there was a war on!

A melancholy tone pervades at times, such as when he writes “it is not very happy stopping indoors in a home that is not mine.” Did my Grandmother worry about her sensitive son, lover of classical music and English Downland? If he were mine, I am sure that I would have.

Dear All, On Friday I received your letters and rag, written Sat. night and yesterday afternoon, your parcel arrived. I see that those letters were written on Tuesday night, so it seems that the letters take longer in this direction. I was very pleased to receive the parcel; I think the pleasantest part was the pair of shoes. Having to wear boots has made my feet quite sore and although those shoes are heavy one I felt as if I was treading on air. You have probably received my parcel of cigs by now. I shall certainly send more later, also chocolate but the latter is not now so easy to obtain. We do not use the token or coupon system at the NAAFI which now serves us, we have to queue up & then we only get 20 cigs. and a 2d bar of chocolate. I can get the cigs. at other places quite easily, but not so the chocolate. Incidentally, I bought 2 x 20 cigs and a 10 at the first 3 shops I tried – all Player’s and I didn’t draw a single blank! By the way when you say “Player’s or better”, what are the better?

cigarette packet ('Players Navy Cut')
According to Wikipedia, Players Navy Cut was most popular “amongst the middle class and in the South of England.”

I shall send back a vest and a pair of pants (and pyjamas) with this letter. there is a laundry service to which I am sending my Air Force stuff – towel, shirt, and collars. It is a free laundry & until something goes wrong I shall use it. I have washed socks and handkerchiefs but perhaps you could send some more socks, as I have only two pairs – one I am wearing, the other pair is drying. I was also pleased to receive the apples though I do not think they will keep long, the small ones which I have tried lacked that crispness which they usually have. When you send again you might put in some darning wool for my socks – just in case! The money for my parcels and torch you really should take out of my pay – I expect it is none too easy to make ends meet and at the rate of several parcels a month it will not take long to pay back the cost of Jean’s bicycle – so you would not be any better off! As regards money, I find Blackpool a real city of temptation. It is so much easier to buy a reserved seat at 2/6 or 3/- than to queue up for 1/6d or 2/- seat, and after the show I don’t need much persuading to go and have supper, and of course there are always coffee, ices and lemonade brought round in the interval. I met quite a nice fellow at Friday’s WEA class and we had supper together. I had not seen any cheese since Padgate, so I had and enjoyed Welsh rabbit [rarebit]. If I spend only 7/6d this week I shall have £1 left, which I shall try to save. I shall also try to save 5/- a week by managing on 10/1 per week and thereby save something for Christmas presents and leave. In 4 weeks from now we get (if lucky) a short weekend pass, Saturday dinner time to Sunday night, and in 8 weeks time a long weekend from Friday night to Sunday night, or Monday morning (7am). So on the long weekend I might get home, and on the short weekend, I can go to Castelton or Wentworth. After a while I may be able to get a day pass out of our 5 mile “bounds” (the bounds exempt Fleetwood and Lytham on the coast) and possibly go to Coniston on that, or else Bolton, if the coach tours no longer run.

Yesterday I saw the opera of which I am sending the programme. Being Russian it was not so easy to understand, but I enjoyed it very well. The Opera house is much bigger (about the size of the “Forum”) than the “Grand” where the other operas were, and it is quite modern. The Winter Gardens, the Tower and the Palace are the 3 main places of entertainment. Each contains a cinema, a variety (Palace), stage show (Winter Gardens -Opera House) or something similar and a ballroom. The Winter Gardens have about 3 restaurants and 4 bars, as well as milk and coffee bars, lounges, and amusement halls of automatic machines. The Tower has restaurant, bar, and a menagerie and aquarium. By paying for the cinema or stage show one can see the rest of the building, and after last night’s opera I wandered round & looked at the amusement arcades and the dancing in the Winter Gardens. even if it does not appeal to me much, it is a truly remarkable place.You are quite right about the fellows here; they are not of the “rough & tough” type, and don’t bother me, but there is usually plenty of noise going on, so I find it difficult to concentrate on writing & reading. this morning things are quite quiet, but if you find a lot of mistakes in my letters you will know the reason why. That is why I do not stop in very much, also, it is not very happy stopping indoors in a home that is not mine, one tends to forget being away by going out. So on Mondays & Wednesdays I go to the RAF musical meetings, on Friday to the WEA class, on Thurs. or Tuesday to see my Hamble friend, & on Saturday to the Theatre. That does not leave me much time to be lonely. It does not leave me much time for reading either and I have only reached page 39 in my “English Downland” book. I hope to find a quiet place where I can read in silence. I must make a tour of the many clubs and canteens & see if I can find somewhere. The reading room of the library is unfortunately closed at 7p.m., and of course the churches are no use at night.

Could you let me know which books Peter took? Or perhaps I shall write to him and ask. Somewhen you could possibly make a list of Christmas presents for our family, Ron, Havant & Branstone. Our course at Blackpool is 10 weeks to-morrow, so it looks as if I shall be here for Christmas and I might as well buy presents about a month before the time so as to have a good selection to choose from. I might get Peter another chemistry book. Thanks very much for the torch, but I used it to go downstairs & when I tried it again it would not work! so I suppose the bulb has gone: the journey up must have done for it. Most of the people have had their photographs done by now but you will not see any from me in a hurry! Some of them are very poor & I have seen none of real excellence. I have not as yet made any real friends but I do not mind that. I go out on my own and often meet pleasant people when I am out. I do not doubt that the others in the billet wonder what I do with myself. I do not tell them much because I should not think they would approve of my music meetings. Next Monday there are some professionals appearing to play a Beethoven Sonata and a Brahms trio, usually the music is provided by a radiogram. On Wednesday we tried to hear a broadcast concert but the reception was too poor to continue listening. In spite of it being a very good set, there was a lot more fading than we experience, so to fill the time, the one who organises the meetings played us some piano music: he had no music & is a very good player.

Well I think that is about all so goodbye and love from Albert.

P.S. I hope you have some nice rides – tell me about them, I should like to know. What does ‘ad vincula’ mean?

I was glad to hear that the Ceratostigma was out, does it look as if it will be a nice shrub? I have destroyed a good many of the letters you sent. I hope you wanted none of them. I am keeping Jean’s though because it gave me a good laugh to read it, Bravo Jean!

“Welsh Rabbit”, ah that made me smile, it reminded me of a staple of our Sunday afternoon teas; Welsh Rabbit with Worcester Sauce. As a child I thought it was a silly name my Dad made up, never having heard of a ‘Welsh Rarebit’. Does anyone else remember that? A silly, and frankly (for a small child) confusing and rather disturbing name. It tastes nothing like a rabbit.

cigarette packet (‘Players Navy Cut’) © IWM (EPH 5223)

23 Hull Road, Blackpool

“60 cigarettes & 4 bars of chocolate per week.”

Albert starts his letter on 26th October, two days after his previous letter home. I can’t help but think that Albert was a little lonely, occupying his free time in letter writing and solitary trips to cinema and theatre. He sends my Grandfather cigarettes for his birthday, which seems a rather shocking sort of present now, but normal for the times; everyone who has ever watched a film set during World War Two will know how scarce and sought after ‘smokes’ were. A weekly ration of 60 cigarettes was a privilege reserved for those who served. Albert is making do and making the best of it; washing his own socks, sharing a room with two strangers and bearing the cold weather of the North-West Coast. In my opinion he rather skimps on the number of pants he deems necessary, but these were different times!

23 Hull Road is, as it was in 1941, a guesthouse near the seafront. I doubt it was so uniformly terracotta all those years ago.

Dear Everybody, I shall start this letter today and post it to-morrow after we move to our new billet. First, I will say that I got your first letter on Friday, and the parcel with the socks on Saturday. I hope that by now you will have got my parcel. As regards clean things, I shall try to wash my own collars, socks and handkerchiefs, if I am at all able to, but I think that it will be best to send home shirts pyjamas vests and pants. I think you could perhaps send to my new address a parcel consisting of : 2 vests, 2 pairs pants, I pyjamas & coat, my bicycle torch, my black shoes I wore to Padgate, some soft rag for brass cleaning. You can take the money out of my pay (when it comes).

Next Friday, we receive the magnificent sum of 10/- [10 shillings], and that has to last us for a fortnight, so I cannot see my £2 which I have left last me for long. I am sending a few cigarettes as a birthday present, and when we get paid I shall send some more. I have also got some chocolate for Auntie Lizzie’s birthday, but cannot send it until I have a box to pack it in, or at least some cardboard. We are allocated 60 cigarettes & 4 bars of chocolate per week, for which we have a token. So if you want anything like that, I can get it. There is not such a shortage of other goods either, I see tins of beans, fish & meat roll, paste and other things in the shops, so I can try for them if you want. I am having 2/- per week taken out of my pay and put into P.O. savings. I expect to be able to manage on 15/- per week after the next fortnight. By booking early for the theatres I should get a good seat for 2/6d. I got in easily on Friday by arriving at 6.20 (the show began at 7.30) and had a good seat at half a crown. I could probably have done the same last night. I enjoyed both operas very much indeed, and really cannot decide which one I enjoyed more.

I also enquired yesterday about W.E.A. classes which are held near here. There is one every Friday on “Appreciation of Music” which I shall probably attend. On Mondays there is the R.A.F musical society, meetings with gramophone records, and I shall probably look in there next week.

This afternoon, as I believe I have said, I hope to go to Cleveleys, I can tell more of that on Monday. Looking around Blackpool I have succeeded in finding some fairly good shops, and have also unearthed the local library and art gallery. By means of diligent searching I hope to find some parks one day, as I am told that there are some concealed in the less frequented parts of the town. I have written to work when I sent back a form for the making up of pay, and to Havant and to Jean (at Branstone). Later I must send to the Harts, to Phil & to Raymond. I don’t like any of the picture postcards here so I have not wasted my money on them. Have you seen Pat lately? Is he still at the docks or is he now elsewhere?

Monday. We are now at our new billet, 21 of us altogether, and 3 in our particular bedroom, which is on the 2nd floor. The 2 I am with were not in my previous billet and seem quite nice chaps. This billet is, I think, better than the other, though I have only been here for dinner. However there was more to eat, and a radio on, which, though Forces of course, enabled me to hear the news. I now learn there is no pay until Friday Week. However, I think I shall manage on it.

“By means of diligent searching I hope to find some parks one day”

We went to Fleetwood yesterday on the tram. The trams are half price for Forces, and to Fleetwood the distance of about 6 miles I should say, the fare was only 4d. From the shore there, we could see the hills of Cumberland in the misty distance, and they looked very fine in the hazy yellow light. To the east were the Pennines, though I do not know what part – considerably north of the Peak though. Perhaps one time, if I can afford it, Auntie Edie could get me accommodation for a 48hrs leave there. I see coaches run every Sunday to Keswick & suchlike at about 10/- but by the time I can go, they will probably have stopped. In winter the snow is no doubt quite deep here. It is cold enough already as the wind blows off the Irish Sea, as that was especially noticeable at our last billet, where there was no fire. At Fleetwood I saw many trawlers & and Isle of Man steamer. There are also very many trawlers, though most of them seemed to be in the dock. We could see the balloon barrage at Barrow too.

This morning, before leaving Church Street, a pair of socks arrived from Auntie Daisy, but as yet I have had no time to try them on. I shall go back there tonight and collect my books, writing pad & other articles which I left behind. I shall write to Branstone soon: I have already sent one there for Jean. I must also write to those others, so may not write to you again until I receive that parcel. Had better finish now so goodbye & lots of love from Albert.

Friday October 24, Part Two

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And once again, through no design of my own, I publish a letter at almost the same time of year that it was written. Here my uncle writes of migrating birds and robins singing again. I pause from my typing to listen to my own little robin warbling on the garden fence. I see the geese pass overhead. Albert is tapping lightly on my shoulder, asking me to look beyond and see the gossamer thread of connection that we share on this late October day. So we start to know each other.

I have got left £2.15s to last me until next pay day on next Friday. Also I have the best part of a 5/- [5 shillings] book of stamps. I am glad to hear that Jean has at last got a bicycle: she says that you took the money from my box, so don’t bother to repay it, she can count it as a birthday (or Christmas) present from me. We got 10/- at Padgate, and since then have had no money. Glad I brought some!

I was interested to hear how you are getting on, though it made me a bit homesick to think of all the places you went to on your ride. I am glad to see that you use the gramophone: you must let Joyce hear it when they come round, she would especially like to hear the “Emperor Concerto” right through (H.M.V. plum label) and the Bach Piano Concerto in A minor (H.M.V. red label). The second she has not heard at all, if I write to them I shall mention it. That “Hymn Tune” is I think “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” by Bach, played by Myra Hess (H.M.V. plum label 10″ in right hand compartment). Others which you might enjoy are:

Invitation to the Waltz, Overture midsummer nights dream, Marche Militaire (J), Unfinished Symphony, Hungarian Rhapsody (J), Anita’s Dance (J), Liebestraum No.2 (J).

Those marked (J) are Joyce’s and in the left hand compartment. There are also all our old ones knocking around somewhere in the box. By the way my balance is not a “Spring Balance“! Take a look at it one day and see if you can find the spring or the springs. When you went out you probably noticed, as I did before I left, how the birds are beginning to sing again, especially the robins and wrens. I expect the skylarks will be beginning again soon. I have heard none up here, but have seen several flocks of birds flying out to the sea S.S.W. Migrating I suppose, quite possibly martins, swallows or swifts. I have never seen migrating birds before. I have just read the letters from Havant and Branstone: it is very nice to see how they are getting on. It reminds me to see about something for Auntie Lizzie’s birthday too. I had forgotten about it. I think I can get some chocolate at the canteen & send some along to her.

I am glad you are still getting the “Radio Times” (show Joyce) for tonight I see something labelled in the paper “Mozart”, it should be good. I have got the “News Chronicle” to-day, the “Telegraph” is nearly unprocurable here. I was interested about the rear lamp, a pity we did not think of it before, because that should solve all earthing problems. You were quite right about the taxi. I lingered at Stewarts until nearly 10 to 1 and by the time I got to Euston, it was 1.4 (train at 1.5). I was fortunate in obtaining a taxi just outside the door in Regents Street. But still, it cost me only 2/6 with the tip. As for the book of stamps, I had no time at all after lunch. That had better be all so goodbye now and love to all, from Albert.

P.S. You will show this letter to anyone else who would be interested of course. The food in this billet is quite good but not very plentiful. We should get moved on Monday to more permanent billet. I shall want you to send up my bicycle padlock & chain to lock my kitbag a little later – a lock here costs from 2s6d. Also some bits of rag for cleaning. I shall need a torch too.

This letter is recognisably from a different era; gramophone records, shillings and pence (d) and a curious way of writing the time – I assume 1.4 and 1.5 are 1.40 and 1.50 respectively. I also took note of the hyphenated spellings ‘to-day, to-morrow’ etc. I’m guessing these were not Mabey idiosyncrasies, although the family has some rather poor spellers! I was also surprised by the date format that Albert used, thinking this an Americanism, as we favour (and being English regard it as superior) the ‘day, month, year’ form. Was Albert’s date a ‘modern’ form that later fell out of favour or the traditional format that the UK later abandoned? I delight in these details, pedant that I am.

Friday October 24

“You see Blackpool is not like Bournemouth or the seaside towns we know…..even the sea is the colour of tea.”

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It is fair to say that homesick Albert did not think much of Blackpool. In fact should you hold a fondness for that place, I suggest that you think twice about reading further! This is the earliest letter I have. It may not be the first he wrote, but I do know he started his training in the autumn of 1941. The letter is 6 pages long and what follows is the first three pages. Blackpool seems a strange place to start one’s flight training but apparently the town was full of new recruits in 1941; no wonder the shopkeepers put their prices up…

Dear All,

I received your letters this morning, and am replying this morning without yet having read all the other letters. Yesterday afternoon we were inoculated, and have to-day off to “get over it”. But in my case there is practically nothing to get over, and though, strictly speaking, it is not permitted, I shall go out at least to-night.

Now I am fairly happy here. On Wednesday morning, the day after we arrived at Blackpool, I was very miserable and homesick because this is a very spit and polish place and we go drilling on the promenade, which I do not like at all, even now. Strangely enough it was the afternoons gym period which cheered me up! I thoroughly enjoyed it, because it allows one more freedom I suppose. After that I have been getting on much better, though I still dislike drilling etc and always will I suppose. Our billet is quite a good one, though we have no supper. We are allowed out until 10.30pm and lights out is 10.45pm but there is polishing to be done morning noon and night, and life is one long rush.

Blackpool I think is a nasty place. There are few good shops – one camera shop (good) one bookshop which I have not yet seen and about one music shop. There are many, very many such places as oyster and whelk bars, dirty, dingy tea rooms and restaurants, cheap jack shops that sell all manner of old junk and Woolworths etc. Everything is very expensive and the supposedly good-natured Lancashire folk seem very willing to “do” people, and to get rich as quickly as possible. I paid 5d each for dusters the size of pocket handkerchiefs, 1d for 3lb for very poor Cox’s pippins all scabby and some bruised and maggoty. It will be worth while for you to send some from home. I saw cream buns at 4½d each, some small pies 2½d -4d each. The large show places here such as the Winter Gardens, The Tower and The Palace are very ugly buildings, and dirty outside. Nothing modern and clean except perhaps the Odeon cinema and I don’t like that either!

The good thing about Blackpool is the number of shows going. This week the Sadlers Wells opera company is here and I have got a ticket for Saturday night to see the “Marriage of Figaro” by Mozart. Joyce has the “M. of F.” overture, it is in the left hand compartment of the record cabinet, a light blue 12″ Columbia record in, I believe, a blue case named “J.Tee”. Try it, it is a good overture. Since I was late booking, I had to pay 6/6 for a ticket! To-night I shall try to get in to the “Barber of Seville” by Rossini, but must get there early so as to be at the front of the queue. You probably know the overture to that too & probably one or two of the songs. Next week, also from London, is a Russian opera and ballet. I have booked for that already, and got a good seat at 2s6d for Saturday night. Ronald Frankau is also on at the Palace.

At Warrington we were not allowed out but here we get Sunday off and once training begins, a 48hour leave pass each month with permission for travel to a 50 mile radius, so I shall be able to go to these various places. Our chief chemist’s parents are at Cleveleys near here (see map, I believe there is a Blackpool town plan in your atlas) and I can go there of a Sunday. As I have said, my old workmate is here training, and yesterday I called on him. One of the fellows at his billet was being posted to an aerodrome and in his honour, their landlady treated them to dinner. I was invited too! and at the Tower restaurant: about the best in town. We had a grand dinner of hors d’oeuvres, soup, chicken with fried potatoes and brussel sprouts and ices and coffee. There was also sherry and beer to drink, and I tell you we had a fine time. On Sunday afternoon I am going to see him again and we shall go to Cleveleys together, he has been and says that they entertain very well. Incidentally, I have not seen a bit of green open country since we were in the train on Tuesday, and so far have seen no parks in Blackpool. Certainly there are some near the front, and the “Winter Gardens” are gardens in name only, in fact they compromise a cinema, restaurants, dance hall & I think, a theatre. No gardens. You see Blackpool is not like Bournemouth or the seaside towns we know and far from being so clean and smart, I find it dirty and dingy: even the sea is the colour of tea.